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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Virtual Water in Queens, New York by UrbanLab with endrestudio + Method Design

February 24th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: UrbanLab with endrestudio + Method Design

Virtual Water formally manifests what is hidden in plain sight: RAIN. The project reveals and plays with thousands of gallons of summertime rainwater that would otherwise be discarded from the PS1 courtyard.

Virtual Water refers to water hidden in everyday products. A pair of jeans, for example, has a 3000 gallon Virtual Water footprint because 3000 gallons of water are consumed in the various steps of its production chain (growing the cotton, dyeing the fabric, etc).


Elevation (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

  • Architect: UrbanLab with endrestudio + Method Design
  • Name of Project: Virtual Water
  • Location: Queens, New York
  • Collaborators: UrbanLab (Chicago) – Sarah Dunn + Martin Felsen with Katherine Eberly, Jeff Macias, Andrew Akins, Lulu Alzaid, Simon Cygielski, Lorene Ford, Adrianne Joergensen, Travis Kalina, Jason Mould, Evgeniya Plotnikova, Noel Turgeon; endrestudio (Berkeley / Chicago) -Paul Endres; Method Design (New York) – Reese Campbell, Demetrios Comodromos, David Stasiuk
  • Photo Credits: UrbanLab

Urban spaces such as the PS1 courtyard also have Virtual Water footprints. Unlike a pair of jeans – which is the material embodiment of water-based processes – Virtual Water footprints of urban spaces are largely made up of immaterial water-based processes: rain. The adjective “virtual” refers to the fact that most of the water to produce a product or maintain an urban space is not ultimately visible in the product or space. This is especially true for urban spaces that are typically designed to defend against rain by diverting rainwater to the nearest underground sewer. Ideally in cities, despite its importance and usefulness, rainwater disappears as quickly as it arrives.


Elevation Six Atmospheres (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

The public courtyard of PS1 has a Virtual Water footprint of over 300,000 gallons of rainwater per year – over 100,000 gallons of rainwater during the summer. Our Virtual Water project collects, cleans, conserves and uses thousands of gallons of this summertime rain. After cleansing, rainwater flows between and over conical canopies to create six unique water-based atmospheres.


Model (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

The atmospheres include (1) a Stream or “Living Machine” that cleans collected rainwater with plants, and demonstrates how nature cleans water with minimal energy inputs; (2) a Waterfall Fish Pond that supplies critical nutrients to the plants in the Living Machine, and demonstrates relations between fish and their wetland environments to clean water; (3) a Splash Pool for visitors to play in shallow bio-filtered water; (4) an active Mist/Sprinkler environment that cools visitors in the summer; (5) a Drip Rain Puddle that creates a serene dripping sound during and after a rain storm; and (6) a Reflecting Pool Lounge that is a shaded gathering space and water storage fountain.


Model (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

The circulation of water cascading over the surface of six conical canopies, collecting in the basins below and shooting back up stands as a powerful analogy to the natural cycle of water. Virtual Water reveals through play and program how much fresh water is “hidden” in the PS1 courtyard. Virtual Water splashes, spatters, dances, foams, reflects, flows, drips, and sparkles day and night.


Model (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

Splash Pool (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

Stream Living Machine (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)

Waterfall Fish Pool (Images Courtesy UrbanLab)



Shade Diagram

Sun Diagram

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Category: Courtyard

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